HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif - "If you surf bad you lose, if you surf good, well, your chances of winning are better," articulated Nat Young, fresh off a Round of 16 win Saturday over Frenchman Marc Lacomare at the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing.
Truer words may not have been uttered all week at the U.S. Open. As the men's quarterfinalists were decided, steadier hands navigated the chaos. To be sure, experience is part of that success. All but one of the eight quarterfinalists are full-time ASP World Tour battlers.
Saturday in Huntington Beach started with an all-Brazilian pairing. Adriano De Souza, one of those steady hands, was up against Jadson Andre, who has aspirations of coming back from injury and rejoining the Top 32. While De Souza carved and put powerful combinations together, Andre always seemed to be a tick behind on his turns.
"I'm happy for myself, but sad because I'd like to see Jadson on tour and he needs the points," said De Souza afterwards. "We were really focused out there, so even though we're friends we both know we're still competitors and we have to go out there and try for the win."
Trying for the win with a $100,000 for first place on the line, and that kind of makes sense.
Two competitors also gearing up for a big finish are Kolohe Andino and Julian Wilson. An Open win would mean the world to Andino, and go a long way in validating him. For Wilson, he's had designs on back-to-back Open titles. Unfortunately the ocean had other plans. The two fell victim to a lull-plagued heat. Exchanges were made, but scores never reached into the excellent range, and Andino came away with the win.
"I was actually pretty nervous both before and halfway through, I just want to do good so bad and he's such a tough competitor. I tried to control my breathing and calm myself down, Julian's just so dangerous," said Andino. "I'm just trying to take it as it comes. For now I'm just going to be rooting Nat on, surf this evening, stay loose and stay on the grind."
"They were both two of the in-form surfers in the event, and in the end it came down to wave selection," explained Andino's coach, Mike Parsons. "I've just been trying to help give him confidence and getting himself in the event. He has a great board under his feet, and he's been surfing so well this year I think something big is right around the corner."
In the heats that followed Bede Durbidge laid the hammer down on France's Vincent Duvignac. Giant-killer Michel Bourez continued his tear, outlasting world tour vet Ace Buchan. And then came lover boy, Jordy Smith, who broke Spain's Hodei Collazo poor heart.
"I've had a great year so far, everything's gone the way I wanted to," smiled Smith. "I feel like my surfing's back, my confidence is up. I'm really having fun with what I'm doing."
By the time the clock struck 12, the last heat of the Round of 16 was in the water. Mitch Crews seized control for the first 29 minutes, then Alejo Muniz decided he'd had enough from the young Aussie hipster. Needing a big score, one of the biggest waves of the day came through and he was able to string a series of turns together and earn himself the last berth in the quarters.
The final day features some intriguing matchups. De Souza and Andino will start things off. Andino's been up at dawn warming up, he has beaten De Souza in Huntington before, so this one will be a test of wills. Durbidge and Bourez will trade haymakers in the second heat. Smith has his work cut out for him with the spry Aussie Matt Banting. And Bob Hurley and Pat O'Connell will be on the edge of his seat when Nat Young and Alejo Muniz paddle out for the last quarter.
One day to go. Eight surfers left. Lets do this thing.